2018 Overland Expo, Day 2
Here’s Day 2, and the last of the Expo’s 3 days that I’m covering.
The thinking behind Kimberley’s Eco Suite is in some distant parallel dimension, when compared to Gulf Stream and all the other American travel trailer brands that survived the recent depression, usually by hitting the skids and being purchased by a conglomerate. I picture the American RV brands as lions and hyenas competing for the same downed carcass, the typical RV buyer. Their attention is actually not on the carcass, but on each other, watching every move and being ready to duplicate whatever “upgrades” their competitors offer. Their emphasis is on “amenities”, which is the marketing word for the visual and tactile equivalent of comfort food to Boomers who want it all. The less discernible the difference between the RV and their home, the better. This is easy to market to, since the indulgent “get the luxury you deserve” line is as easy to sell as chocolate bars. The fact that a genuine granite countertop is housed within a stapled-together canopy of 1″x1″ sticks and luan sheets to keep the price competitive, well, that’s not a problem because everybody’s doing it, and it’s profitable. Kick in a porcelain toilet over the dump tank next time around, and no one will be able to say they haven’t improved their product.
Kimberley’s price for this tiny, robust rig is a staggering $90,000, which quickly evaporates any interest from us retired Boomers weaned on industrious personal effort and now switching over to self-indulgence as a reward. Yet, like the Black Series trailers in my previous post, “value” in the Australian mind is apparently based on different things. In place of granite countertops are features that aid function and longevity. Standard features include a hot-dipped galvanized steel frame of ample size, separate hot and cold stainless steel water tanks instead of plastic, high-clearance independent air-bag suspension with an adjustable compressor, hydraulic disk brakes with parking brake, a 550W rooftop solar system feeding a 200Ah lithium battery, induction cooktop, diesel-fed heating system, and a pump system that allows replenishing the water tanks with filtered water from streams or lakes. No doubt the induction cooktop runs off the 2,600-watt inverter. The structural materials consist of stainless steel, fiberglass, and to control weight and greatly increase panel stiffness, bonded aluminum honeycomb panels. I once saw early versions of the latter in the 1970s, and they were feathery in weight, yet allowed structural designs that simply could not be done by any other means and still function, which overruled their premium cost. Incredibly stiff.
Lithium batteries are a plus in this application because they require far less time to fully recharge than conventional batteries like mine. Charging voltages do not need to be held for hours to complete the charge, and a miserable charge on an overcast day can’t sulfate and cripple them. It doesn’t care whether it’s fully recharged or not, though I have to say that feeding a 200Ah pack with 550 watts-worth of panels will make partial recharges a rare thing. The excess panel power is then available for any daytime use. Like lead batteries, lithium batteries last much longer when they are lightly used each day, but their lifespan curves at set discharge rates are much longer than lead. Yes, you can discharge them to zero capacity, which makes a 200Ah lithium the equivalent of nearly 400Ah in lead, but for the sake of longevity and replacement cost, you really don’t want to make a habit of running them nearly flat. They currently cost 3-4 times what AGMs cost, and they can more than pay their way only if they are used lightly, and their charge controller is tailored solely to lithium. They do eventually wear out, but watch their two needs, and they may outlast you. Those on a budget may wish to wait a few more years before swapping over to lithium, to give the charging technology and usage knowledge the time to mature a little more, and hopefully lower the cost of entry.
The Eco Suite has its conventional luxuries too, in the form of an awning, microwave oven, coil spring mattress with underbed heating (which is much more efficient than having to run the furnace all night), inside shower, A/C, fridge/freezer, waterless toilet, aim-able 4G cellular antenna, a 12V “super-hot water dispenser”, and a “bluetooth soundbar”. Maybe there’s something else out there which can provide as much toughness and comfortable living space in such a small, trail-centric footprint, but it certainly isn’t available here. Yeah, I know, the cost is blinding, but when I compare the upfront cost to what typically goes on in our domestic RV world, the Kimberley starts to gain considerable ground. One can be happy in a little fiberglass Casita TT, but don’t weld a 360-degree hitch on it and figure you’re ready for bear.
Well that’s it! Hope you enjoyed it.
Our Class A had an airhorn. One time I remember using it was when kids by the side of the road pumped their arms and we made them happy by responding. I think we only used it one another time–to wake up one of those “I don’t need to pay attention as I merge; you will get out of my way” drivers. It did indeed wake him up.
Yes, I think it is the sudden perception of something very large and very heavy bearing down on them, unseen.! Good times!
Great writing and reflections as usual, really enjoyed it. I can’t help feeling though that this outdoor adventure lifestyle is being steadily subsumed by the consumerist/poser zeitgeist so prevalent in our ‘advanced’ western civilization. It’s just an expression of our human nature, and I’ve certainly been there and done that, so I’m just observing and not judging.
Oh we’re nearly all just lemmings at heart I suspect, dedicated to being admired or at to least fit in with everyone else, even if that means not fitting in to the main group by fitting into a group of rebels o’ the day. Example: the more modern versions of hipsters, with some savvy marketers pushing brands to homogenize the look of not fitting in by fitting in more completely with a better-conforming individuality. The “Adventure Lifestyle” sells now. In the dispersed camping area of the Expo, all you have to do is look for a Tacoma with enough add-on big-brand purchases to give it that overlanding magazine look, and it’s so clean and polished that it looks like it was gone over with a toothbrush, top and bottom. Visually, it’s obvious that it has no stories to tell, and Heaven forbid something should affect its resale value. It’s hard not to cave in to marketing that successfully dons the mantle of peer pressure, as opposed to just answering an individual, functional need. Fortunately, most of the rigs there are “run whatcha brung”, then altered to suit. Unlike you Rod, I judge but rarely observe, so we’d probably make for a balanced team! 🙂
Balanced team, hahaha! One more tiny observation I’ve been making recently is the extraordinary sameness in the look of young men these days. They wear the same shadowy beards, the same shirts and shoes, or tight athletic shirts in the spring time (even in other countries). I guess it was always been thus to some degree, but it still stuns me a bit that in the time of one’s life where we have the most energy and creativity, we still tend to fall right in line. I suppose that the Internet, media, and girls account for most of it.
Yes, the media coverage of Khomeini-era street demonstrations in Iran eventually made its way to the faces of today’s fashion-conscious American men, along with ill-fitting clothes. Makes one wonder what the next fashion wave will eventually be. One of the constants in our DNA seems to be mimicry, to act as an identifier and cohesive force in the group, so we’re not going to lose that hardwired trait anytime soon. If anything, there’s now far more cultural pressure to conform in thought and mindset than there has been for a very long time, including the oft-mocked 1950’s.